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Wasted Lives: Tuberculosis and Other Health Risks of Being Haitian in a U.S. Detention Camp

Authors

  • Steven R. Nachman

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
      Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, 120 Hendricks Hall, Edinboro, PA 16444.
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Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, 120 Hendricks Hall, Edinboro, PA 16444.

Abstract

In 1982, the author interviewed 38 Haitian tuberculosis patients and had informal discussions with nonpatients and medical personnel at Krome, a detention camp for illegal entrants run by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. This article considers health and other conditions at Krome and the reactions of detainees and medical personnel to those conditions. The patients found life at Krome especially difficult. Ambivalent toward their diagnosis of tuberculosis and dissatisfied with their therapy, they accused camp officials of trying to justify exclusionary immigration practices by treating Haitians as disease ridden. But the patients also regarded Krome as an unhealthy environment and complained regularly of illnesses to camp physicians. These often accused their patients of malingering in order to obtain release from Krome. Neither medical personnel nor detainees agreed on what constituted a healthy Haitian. Ultimately, the Haitian desire for freedom and the opposing purpose of camp officials to dictate the terms of Haitian confinement found expression in competing definitions of health and illness.

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